‘Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’ Review: A Profoundly Beautiful & Elevated Continuation to Cal Kestis’ Story [SPOILER-FREE]

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The highly anticipated Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order sequel from Respawn Entertainment, EA, and Lucasfilm Games, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, is available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series XIS, and PC as of April 28.

If you’re like me, you maybe slept such a small amount those you tell raise an eyebrow, fueled by caffeine and a desire to see what the sequel has in store for Cal and his crew, hoping to complete the story before a spoiler catches your eye on the internet. If you can manage to go into the game with absolutely no spoilers, you will be rewarded with an emotionally gripping story with plenty of twists and turns to hold your attention for hours on end.

I loved Fallen Order when it was released in 2019. Yes, there were gameplay and mechanics issues, but the heart of the game quickly elevated this corner of the galaxy and Cal Kestis to some of my favorite Star Wars material — not only in recent years but in totality. While excited with the announcement of a sequel, there was always a skeptical voice in the back of my mind … wondering if the trio of developers could deliver a follow-up that was not only fulfilling but elevated. Respawn, EA, and Lucasfilm Games managed to surpass every expectation and hope with Survivor.

The first installment in this franchise, Fallen Order, served to tell Cal’s story of overcoming trauma through an individualistic lens — we watch him reconnect with himself and with the Force and how he can adapt to his ever-changing life. Still with overcoming loss and trauma at the center, Survivor takes a deeper exploration into these profound themes by analyzing how circumstances such as this make the individual interact with others. It’s a beautiful, deeply impactful story to watch unfold.

I want to start by first and foremost saying how stunning the game is, and giving major kudos to everyone involved with designing these planets. With sprawling landscapes and gorgeous multi-generational buildings to explore, I am certain that I tacked on an extra several hours simply marveling at the worlds on my screen and appreciating the beauty they have to offer in photo mode.

Compared to Fallen Order, Survivor has vastly improved gameplay and mechanics. I’m the type of person who loves to explore in games, and while it’s no secret there were many frustrations with the exploration mechanics in the first game, Survivor has perfected Star Wars adventuring. Whoever had the idea for the ascension cable can consider themselves my new best friend, because that specific tool added so much possibility to where Cal can reach. The introduction of a variety of mounts across Koboh was fantastic as well — especially with the added bonus of seeing Cal interact with them.

Another aspect Survivor perfected is lightsaber combat. First of all, human dismemberment was introduced with the game, and at the risk of sounding insane it is just all kinds of satisfying to watch Stormtrooper limbs fly across the screen because it just makes the experience more realistic. The saber designs in the game are unmatched — every hum and crackle is perfectly accentuated by smooth and concise movements. Providing not one, not two, but five different lightsaber stances allows players a chance to fight in a style that works best for them, which lends to how overall immersive the game is. The knowledge and skillset carry over from the previous game, which also lends to more realistic gameplay.

If you weren’t a fan of the ponchos in Fallen Order even though Star Wars has been making ponchos cool since ’77, the fantastic news is there are tons of new customization options and cosmetics. I was floored to see a white lightsaber blade added and loved getting the chance to change Cal’s hair and beard style, but I did find myself somewhat missing some of the ponchos … specifically the pink one (gone but never forgotten).

Speaking of ponchos … Cameron Monaghan is at the center of Survivor again as returning hero Cal Kestis, and he brought his best to this performance for this next chapter. Immediately I could just feel the character growth they were trying to portray that happened in the five years between games — you can see and feel Cal’s confidence in how he moves about the world and interacts with those around him. He is every bit as endearing as he was in the first game, with an added maturity and level of experience that stunningly conveys the growth he’s gone through. Cal is not infallible and faces more hardships within himself during Survivor, and Monaghan’s range as an actor ensures that you will be immersed in exactly what Cal is thinking and feeling.

The series continues to solidify Cal Kestis as one of my favorite Force users and arguably one of the best Jedi the franchise has seen to date. I will continue to dream of the day that Monaghan brings Cal Kestis to the live-action screen.

If you weren’t as enamored with the rest of the Mantis crew the first time around and instead found Cal was the focus of your attention (which is fair considering he is the main protagonist the games are following), you may be surprised with how much you fall for the others in the sequel. Personally, I have always been a fan of the various characters Cal finds himself aligning with, but even I walked away from the sequel with a deeper love for all of the crew members — especially Greez, whose effortless humor provides a welcome lightness to a story that can reach to black hole levels of darkness. The supporting cast all brought new depths to their characters.

But the standouts for the cast aside from Monaghan for me were Noshir Dalal and Cody Fern, both of whom joined the Star Wars franchise with this game. Dalal, a voice I immediately recognized thanks to Red Dead Redemption 2, brought so much emotion to his role of Bode Akuna that I was immediately captivated by the character and eager for more of him when he’s not present onscreen. As for Fern, his confident cadence (which I recognized immediately from trailers) lends the perfect voice to Dagan Gera, a High Republic Jedi with so much pain to his story your heart will wrench.

And while I loved Bode and Dagan, the new character who won my heart the most was Caij Vanda acted by Verona Blue. It will be completely unsurprising to me when she quickly becomes a fan-favorite character.

Another addition to the sequel is B1-series battle droids, and I wish I could tell you that I didn’t spend an arguably wasteful amount of time letting my game idle so I could sit back and listen to their bickering and banter between themselves and their commentary on the environments they’re in — and an added bonus when the main cast has commentary on the droids as well. In terms of serotonin release, these moments were quite unmatched.

Don’t forget to check out Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars, the tie-in novel by Sam Maggs that takes place between the games. It’s not absolutely vital, but it will help you go into the game with an understanding of where the Mantis crew have found themselves and how their lives have changed as they make their way through the galaxy. Our review of the book can be read here.

Overall, I loved this game and will be playing it many times over while awaiting the next installment of Cal’s story, and it won’t be a surprise to see this game have a stunning run at gaming awards in the months to come. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is available for purchase now.

Hannah
Hannah
Hannah’s a lifelong nerd, but has been with the team since May 2021. Her life is easily classified by two abbreviations - BBG3 and ABG3 (before Baldur’s Gate 3 and after Baldur’s Gate 3). Especially nerdy about: video games, folklore, Star Wars, D&D, Spider-Man, and horror (all of it). Based in Denver, CO.

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